Colas Rail is trialling the use of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) fuel in its fleet of tampers and a Kirow crane, in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint.
HVO is a sustainable diesel alternative that can reduce carbon emissions by up to 90%. It is produced from used cooking oils and animal fats, which are treated to be used as a paraffinic diesel.
The company's Rail Services division has been running the trial for four of its tampers, which are used to maintain railway tracks. The Kirow crane is also being used on HVO, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
By the end of 2023, the company expects to save around 123 tonnes of carbon by using HVO in its tampers and crane. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of around 70 cars.
The company's Rail Grinding team has also undertaken a sustainable trial of its own, collaborating with FuelActive to install a rail grinder with patented technology to reduce fuel consumption and particulate emissions.
This technology draws fuel from the top of the tank, rather than the bottom, which prevents contaminated fuel from being drawn into the engine's fuel supply system. This results in a cleaner combustion process and extends the life of the fuel filters.
The company's Freight division is also running a HVO trial on one of its locomotives, the 56051 'Survival'. This locomotive regularly operates on the Chirk to Baglan route.
During the trial period, the 56051 'Survival' has reduced its carbon emissions by 54 tonnes after using 20,000 litres of HVO fuel. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of around 30 cars.
The company's carbon manager, Daniel Ditri, said that HVO fuel is the most effective current solution to reduce the company's carbon footprint.
"Whilst it isn't the perfect net zero solution, the investment and technological constraints of preferred greener solutions such as electrified or hydrogen freight is still a good few years away," he said.
"We simply don't want to stop still!
"Using sustainable drop in fuels, like HVO, is the best way to take immediate action in tackling climate change."
The company's plant director, Peter Graveling, said that the company has taken the decision to try alternative fuels at its own cost.
"This is a demonstration of our belief that it is the right thing to do for the environment," he said.
The company's freight director, Simon Ball, said that the company is lobbying the government to reduce the cost differential between HVO and conventional diesel fuel, to encourage wider use.
"We are also developing funding proposals with Network Rail to support with the increased costs," he said.
The company's trials of HVO fuel are a positive step towards reducing the carbon footprint of the rail industry. By using sustainable alternatives to conventional diesel fuel, the company is helping to protect the environment and create a more sustainable future for rail travel.
Image: Colas Rail